OMG! If you’ve never been to The Smoky Mountain National Park, then put it on your bucket list!!! It’s been many years since we’ve been here but didn’t come to explore Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge. We were here with our MINI Cooper Club to drive “The Dragon” which is on the opposite side of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (Devils Gap/Fontana Village).
Our campground was awesome! Very close to several entrances to the Great Smoky Mountain NP. We explored and did as much as we could during our week stay.
We poked around the town of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Both tourist towns with plenty to see and do. You drive right through Gatlinburg into one of the main entrances to the National Park.
The scenery, roads, waterfalls, rushing rivers – all just breathtakingly gorgeous. It was hot but no rain the entire time.
Our first drive through the NP we spotted a juvenile bear by the roadside – not interested in any of the traffic going by. It was happily munching on whatever it could find.
Tunnels – lots of them…..
We did a 3 mile hike to Grotto Falls which is quite a popular place. We got up at O dark thirty to ensure we could get parking, as it is very limited. The trail was very well marked, and “bear” warning signs posted quite frequently. We spotted a biggie as we were heading back but couldn’t get the camera out quick enough. It was fairly close to us so safety was our main concern. It happily came towards us on the trail then disappeared into the forest.
Clingmans Dome was on our list to do – again. We had hiked/climbed up when we were previously in the area but forgot how STEEP it was (we were a lot younger)! Whew!! We got our workout for the morning. It was a cool and foggy morning but still awesome.
Pigeon Forge was fun to explore – especially since we knew there was a Moon Pie General Store. Donna’s favorite snack……yeah, they sell Moon Pies elsewhere, BUT there are only 2 General Stores that have all kinds of other goodies. It was fun……….Mike also got some go-kart riding in. Did we feel like little kids? You bet ya!!!!
Also in Pigeon Forge is The Old Mill District. We had lunch at The Old Mill Restaurant. Good home cooking food!!! Man, we have to stop eating like this – LOL!! Beautifully located on the river….
We found Iron Mountain Metal Craft shop. They teach you make knives from railroad spikes. So of course, we had to.
Another wake up at the crack o dawn was to do an 11 mile bike ride inside the NP at the area called Cades Cove. This is where a lot of wildlife can be seen in the park. It is a beautiful open meadow. Every summer evening, like a rush hour in a big city, lines of cars full of wide eyed tourists drive around the loop hoping to catch a glimpse of something wild. On Wednesdays, the NP closes the 11 mile loop to cars and only allows bikes. We were hoping to spot more bears, but sadly, we saw none – booooooo…lots of deer and turkeys though. And a family of coyotes. It was fun riding bikes in the middle of the Smoky Mountains.
The Chalets surrounding Gatlinburg have views that must look awesome.